Epa Mask
In the Epa festival of the Yoruba people, men perform the ceremony with large masks carved from wood. Epa is a male deity who once was a wood carver. His cult was restricted to the Northern Yoruba people. During his festival, which is held every other year, the masked dancers must jump onto a large flat-topped mound about three feet high. As some Epa masks are 4 feet tall and weigh up to at least eighty pounds, and can also be as large as 6 feet tall and one hundred and twenty pounds, this no easy feat. If it is accomplished without accident, this is a sign of the acceptance of the sacrifice that has been offered. The masked dancers are followed by stilt dancers who perform feats of agility. Stilt dancers and masks appear in festivals of a few other deities throughout the calendar year of the Yoruba, but the Epa festival is one of the more popular events.

Masks of the Epa festival were carved from soft and light wooded-tree trunks. The relief impressions made on them were meant to be pronounced because, as ritual objects, they were to be out of the ordinary and awe-inspiring. Almost all of them were meant to be borne on the head and were pot shaped, helmet shaped or simply face-coverings. The Epa masks are carved from a light wooded tree called a e’ruku. By contrast, masks carved from hardwood trees are more often used for deliberate tests of strength and balancing skill on the wearer. Two such Epa masks called the Obo-Ile weigh 120 pounds each, and are 6 feet tall. (KM)

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